There’s an old saying I recently saw updated for the 21st century:
“Dance as if no one’s watching. They can’t, because they’re all looking at their phones.”
Mobile devices not only have turned us into an always-on culture, it’s forced our collective gaze downwards. We don’t see life passing in front of our eyes because we’re checking emails and replying to tweets.
It’s not only compulsive behavior, it’s annoyingly anti-social. And aside from my husband and the few others who refuse to give up their flip-phones, we’re all guilty of it. Visit my house on the weekend and you might find my 4-year-old daughter on an iPad, my 17-year-old son texting and playing on his laptop, and me looking at my phone while we’re all together in the living room, watching TV. “So, what’s happening in Tiny Town?” my husband likes to ask. And I laugh, but it’s a guilty chuckle because I know deep down something’s wrong. The intense way we focus on these second screens keeps us from each other in what should be our most intimate moments.
My initial fear after getting Glass was that it would suck me even further into Tiny Town. But something even stranger happened.
I started looking up. I put away my phone. I spent more time being present.
Because Google Glass provides an overlay on what you see, you never fully look away from what’s happening in front of you. There’s no need to go digging through your purse for your phone when you want to take a picture, see who retweeted you or check your email. It all loads on the Glass for you to check at your leisure. There are still alerts, but only you (not everyone in the doctor’s waiting room) can hear them. With a swipe of your finger, you can choose whether to look at and respond to them immediately or dismiss them.
People ask all the time if it’s distracting to wear Glass while I drive. I actually find the directions are much easier to follow on Glass than when they’re on my phone because I never have to take my eyes off the road (and it can’t fall under my seat like my cell often does when I need it).
I think most people think that wearing Glass is like being exposed to a never-ending ticker of data. But the reality is the default display setting is off. And if there is an alert, it’s easier to ignore than a text message on my phone. I can answer calls hands-free using voice commands and the headset, so my hands never leave the wheel.
It may seem corny, but Google Glass fills me with a sense of optimism for the future. It’s hard not to feel better, though, when your eyes are always looking up at the world ahead of you.